When I Crack I Expand is a major solo presentation of Tove Kjellmark’s oeuvre. The exhibition focuses especially on her characteristic fragmented aesthetic, and its conceptual examinations. The works have close links to both complex philosophical and psychological perspectives on the world, and we are invited on a journey through the vast landscapes of existence, where human frailty meets the infinite universe.
The exhibition is named after a work that perfectly embodies her ideas – a bronze sculpture with a patchy form representing a woman standing on her hands. Her body resembles a landscape, or a fragmentary map and consists equally of the solid cast matter, bronze, and the empty spaces that are formed. It is in the gaps that the essence appears, and Kjellmark shares her realisation that cracking also means expanding. The gaps are where the expansion takes place, so that something else can seep in; the motion is multi-directional and signifies the power of transformation. A visual metaphor for crumbling inside, picking up the pieces, and understanding that the displacement that occurred prevents us from ever being exactly the same again. The cracks become a kind of portals that enable us to experience several dimensions or layers at once: the outer world, the physical body, and the possibility of peeking into an inner room, intimate and personal. Kjellmark’s works often have a subjective connection at some level, either in that her own physical body is used in the creative process, or that they reveal her inner mental world and emotional experiences. Another figure that plays a key role in her practice is the horse. Ever since childhood, Kjellmark has experienced a strong bond with this mighty creature. The horse is physically associated with muscle mass, strength and energy and represents the movement that is so forcefully tangible in her works.
In her creative process, Kjellmark often contemplates elusive philosophical questions, such as existence and the composition of reality. A reference she has harboured and which imbues her works is the saying “panta rei”, or “everything flows”, attributed to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heracleitus (around 400 BCE). The phrase is a reminder that change is the only constant in life and the universe. It challenges us to accept change as an intrinsic part of existence and gives a more nuanced understanding of the world’s complexity and the nature of reality. Kjellmark’s works can also be associated with the so-called “vanitas” theme that has featured throughout art history, representing the influence of time, mortality and thus change. With the video work They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Kjellmark stretches the limits of measurability and reflects on how physical boundaries can dissolve, as in the transition from life to death. Gradually, we see how life and light leave the great body, until the last few flickering dots of light are engulfed in darkness.
Kjellmark’s interest in technology is expressed not only in how she uses it as a method in her practice, but sometimes her actual tools are given a prominent aesthetic role. One example is the recurring orthopaedic gadgets she uses in the assemblage Archaeology of a Body and the sculptural work Inside. In the clinical, medical world, artificial devices have long been used to support the body and assist mobility. Kjellmark’s figures sometimes have futuristic elements and there are also tangible links to cyborgs or robots. Inside consists of a sculptural representation of the artist’s body, made through 3D scanning, in classical counterpoise. Underlying its serenity is a distinct inherent potential for tension and movement. The figure is dissolving – deconstructed and reconstructed in layers, where inside and outside combine into a multifaceted and ambiguous totality. The fragmented noble horse in Cheval Blanc can evoke a similar experience. In the video work Inside, she takes the viewer into a 3D-scanned body. We can easily lose our way and get lost in the monumental work. The camera movements cause sharp contrasts between sections that can be associated with either parts of a skeleton or black holes. The overall perspective is vertiginous and it is hard to tell whether this is a voyage into an ever-expanding universe, or inside a body.
On a purely practical level, Kjellmark achieves this aesthetic fragmentation with innovative technology. She is fascinated by human-technological interaction and is not afraid of losing control but embraces it as a vital creative tool. She has a keen interest in what takes place in this transition and challenges the boundaries that mark where things begin and end – in accordance with her conceptual format. Her equipment includes thermal cameras, motion capture technology, artificial intelligence, 3D scanning and medical instruments, transforming them into physical artistic material. The end result is presented in various media, such as marble, bronze, jesmonite and 3D printer filaments. Kjellmark builds an associative bridge between art and the latest technology, and unites tradition with innovation to dissolve the boundaries between past, present and future.
Her works are perceived as exceedingly poetic and existential despite the sometimes tersely clinical imagery. The contrasting aesthetic sparks an interesting dynamic that manifests itself in the fusion of artificial and organic, strong and fragile, serene and inherently active. Kjellmark’s unique fragmented style explores and embodies issues of unstoppable forward movement, of perpetual transformation and change – that are linked both externally and on an inner level.
Tove Kjellmark (b. 1977) was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where she lives. She studied at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, and at the École des Beaux Arts, Paris, France. Alongside her work in the studio, she is a lecturer and runs various forms of collaborations with humans and non-humans.
Her works have been exhibited at Färgfabriken, Galleri Erik Nordenhake, Bonniers Konsthall and Galleri Stene Projects, all in Stockholm, Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg, Avesta Art, Avesta, and Konsthallen Bohusläns Museum, Uddevalla. Internationally, she has been featured at Moore Contemporary, Sydney, Australia, Manchester Art Gallery, UK, the Royal British Society of Sculptors, London, UK, LEAP, Lab for Electronic Arts and Performance, Berlin, Germany, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, and David Zwirner Gallery, New York, USA.
Kjellmark’s public commissions include works for Lillholmsskolan, Stockholm, Jernhusen & Absolut Art, Stockholm, and the City of Linköping. She is represented in several collections, including those of Region Uppsala, Sweden, Jönköping Municipality, Sweden, Manchester Art Gallery, UK, and several private collections internationally. She is the recipient of numerous grants, such as the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s two-year grant and a grant for international exchanges; she has also received funding on several occasions from the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation.